The SNP leader, speaking on BBC1's The Politics Show, said he intended to produce a white paper - an initial consultative document - on an independence referendum within 100 days of taking power. Previously he has claimed he would produce a full parliamentary bill.
Mr Salmond announced this shift in a letter to The Scotsman last week, but this was the first time he had taken the opportunity to explain exactly what the new policy means.
The SNP leader said: "What is encompassed in the white paper is the proposal for the referendum and the question, so people can see what we are proposing. We are not soft-pedalling, we are putting forward a white paper in the first 100 days which spells out the question and the route forward for Scotland."
In many respects, one can only applaud the fact that the SNP is prepared to bow to realism, an attitude which in the longer term will enhance their election prospects. A referendum bill was never really on the cards, if only because it would have been ultra vires.
But Mr Salmond has only himself to blame if he is criticised for softening his position. Was there any real need to put himself so far out front in the first place? And if he is prepared to resile from such a central plank in his programme, is there anything else he would not be prepared to sacrifice?